The Rainy Season Sweat Wicking Dress

Tsuyu, I love you and I hate you.

Rainy season wrap dress, by Saké PuppetsAccording to the Japan Times the rainy season began 10 days early. I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. The bad: damp tissues, moldy sinks, towels that never dry, and the smell of damp feet. The good: I love love love waking up to the sound of rain in the morning. And any excuse to linger in cafes or drink tea all day while sewing or go to movies mid-afternoon. I don’t even mind the crazy curly hairdos. The temperature isn’t too hot or too cold, and the rain is rarely heavy enough to require more than a large clear umbrella.

The absolute worst part of rainy season? The fact that when it is over, it is summer. Hot, humid, and wet but in a different, nastier way. To prepare I am making dresses, and Japanese fabric is perfectly suited for Japanese summers. How convenient.

Rainy season wrap dress, by Saké Puppets. PS, my neighbors have pretty hydrangeas. This wrap dress is made with nani IRO woodblock pocho in gray/green double gauze cotton using Vogue 8646, the first Vogue pattern I’ve tried. It was just OK. I skipped a muslin because it’s a wrap dress (read: easy to fit), and made the size 10 with an extra 1″ in length in the bodice. I could have used another inch, I think. And the bodice feels too big. I hand-stitched the hem around the neckline which gives a nice finish and removed some bulk from the front. I am thinking about adding long ties, to actually wrap this sucker around my body and tighten it up a bit. But for a rainy-season-turned-sweaty-summer dress, it’ll do just fine. Japanese double gauze is like wearing a ShamWow. Sweat-wicking at its finest, my friends.

Rainy season wrap dress, by Saké PuppetsI bribed my husband into taking my picture with the promise of buying him lunch. And then this happened. Whooeee!

whooeee! by Saké PuppetsWe both ordered omurice like 5-year olds, because what else do you do on a rainy day?

Orange Dress

arijit in orange

On March 22nd I lost my dear friend Arijit. He battled colon cancer for two years in a very public, very honorable fight.

He was 32 and a PhD candidate at the School of Sustainability at ASU. He was feisty and passionate about the environment, food, and music. He liked to challenge me to think about why I do the things I do. I taught him about hotdish and we talked about our feelings and swore like sailors during rowdy impromptu dinner parties. The world is definitely lonelier without him.

Ari’s favorite color was orange and when we gathered with friends to celebrate his life, I wanted to be blazing in it. I made another Elisalex in linen, and dedicated the time I spent sewing my orange dress to reflecting on Ari, our friendship, and his life’s journey. Spending a few days alone with my sewing machine was the best way for me to honor him and to grieve the way I needed to. My heart was full and my hands were busy.

orange dressSo the blog takes a somber tone today to match the somber mood I have been feeling these past few months. I wanted to share about Ari because he constantly reminded us of how beautiful and interesting the world is and I am working to focus on those things rather than the sadness. But also because Ari loved thoughtful handmade things and making a dress or a cake or a hat, or whatever it is we make, are all ways to show our love for one another. It is a testament to how close you can feel to someone so far away. So I’ll keep making his tomato chickpea recipe, hand-stitched neckties for my husband, embroidered wedding gifts, and strive to show people how much I care about them.

Ari’s photo courtesy poopstrong.org.

Spring Circle Scarf

While visiting the Kawaii Nunohaku craft fair last month I bought two small pieces of fabric from a Kamakura-based shop owner. The fabric was a beautiful pairing and I knew right away that I wanted to use them in a scarf.

A beautiful pairing.I know nothing about these fabrics except that the colorful one is incredibly soft and light, is screen or maybe woodblock printed, and the other is linen. It might be hand-printed, too. I decided to make a circle scarf like the one I saw on Miss Matatabi’s site. I cut each piece into two 12″ by 30″ rectangles and sewed the short ends together. Following the directions here, I sewed the two fabrics together along their long edges then turned the scarf right-side-out, hiding the seams and pressing it crisp. I joined the remaining short ends and finished it with hand-stitching.

A spring circle scarf. I’m really pleased.

A Candy Party in My Bag

I am in love with Kokka’s new fabric Candy Party Tsuzuki. When Miss Matatabi gave me a few chunks I jumped right in and made this tiny punky needle book. Then … I stalled out. I put it on my desk and stared at it. I was dizzy with infatuation. What to do next? Do I cut it up and re-piece it, or do I use the pattern as-is? I thought about making a skirt but decided that is too bold, even for me, even for Tokyo. I considered a clutch, a backpack, more zipper pouches. I wanted something big to show off every combination of patterns I could muster.

candy party laptop caseMy laptop needed dressing up, it was an ideal match. Now, when I dig into my shoulder bag I see my Candy Party laptop gettin’ down in there.

laptop case by Saké PuppetsThis envelope-style laptop case is a combination of the pink-gold and blue-lilac colorways pieced together. I think it rocks, so much so that I ordered more of the purple-mint. What next?!

Pattern Frenzy

A while back Vogue had a sale on all their sewing patterns, so I bought three. This is definitely wishful thinking. I can’t imagine I will find the time to make all of these dresses.

vogue patternsI bought them because they were inexpensive and I thought they might be nice patterns for a beginner. I am going to cut into that pattern tissue, yes I am.

A friend recently bought a real-deal Von Furstenberg and looked great in it, which was the inspiration for 8646. I have no idea what I was thinking about 8825. Those sleeves are sort of hideous. (Though the blue version on their website is much better, and this version rocks.)

The hardest part about sewing is conjuring up an image of the final project — what fabric to use, how it will drape, how I could possibly customize it? I have no idea.

While frolicking in the US last summer I stopped by JoAnn Fabrics and found all their patterns on sale for cheap, like $1 or something ridiculous. I can’t quite remember, it all went a little blurry after the frenzy hit. I had forgotten about them until I went to put my new Vogue numbers away.

pattern frenzyI now remember my excitement about Ms. 8727. In 2006 (or 2005?) I bought a dress similar to view B at H&M for $15, and it is one of my favorite dresses. It fits me perfectly, is printed linen with a lined bodice and pockets, and I still wear it all summer. Even though styles in Japan are quite modest and that much semi-cleavage is scandalous. I don’t care, I need pockets! For years I have been dreaming of making one in every color of the rainbow but didn’t actually know how to do that. Until now!

This is quite the lineup, and none of it gets started until after this:

Nani iro + ElisalexI decided to join another sew-along, this time for the By Hand London’s Elisalex dress. I am making it in Nani iro linen. My excitement can only be adequately described in emoji: ヾ(^O^)ノ

Harikuyou Needle Festival

On Friday I went to a local harikuyou 針供養 festival. February 8th is a day to pay respect to your old sewing needles by sticking them in tofu.

Needles stuck in soft tofu, their reward for a job well-done

The idea is that your needles have worked hard and have served you well, and so deserve a soft place to live our their final days.

My friend who is also a stitcher and I joined women in kimono and men in glimmering robes inside the small temple. We were ushered in and we kneeled on pillows. A box of incense passed our way and we were encouraged to pinch some into the embers and pray. We lined up with everyone and stuck our needles into the tofu. Then the temple ladies handed us sweet amazake. They reminded us it was cold outside, we needed to drink up, and handed us a second cup.

Needles in a bed of tofu for harikuyou

After the ceremony we went outside and noticed women were also dropping pins and needles into a large stone box. We peeked inside and saw it was filled up to the eaves. They told us it has been a resting place for needles for as long as the temple has been there. (I looked at their website, maybe since 1608?)

Needles of days past

We strolled around the temple grounds, admiring the ume trees in bloom. It was cold, but a lovely day.

森嚴寺

Just before I placed my needle into the tofu I accidentally pricked myself with it, and it drew a little blood. He (yes, he) wouldn’t go without a fight. I felt some remorse about sending him to his end, so I hope I did right by this little needle in finding him a tofu bed.

I bought a good luck charm from the temple to help me while sewing this year. I haven’t pricked myself since.

森嚴寺

Ps, I have updated this post so it no longer refers to my friend and myself as sewers. We are indeed people who use needles, not big holes of crap. 😉

Wool Winter Skirt

A winter skirt, just in time for spring. This lovely wool was given to me years ago and I finally felt confident enough to sew something with it. I used the new Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt pattern, which is designed for hippy ladies such as myself. A nice match, I think.

Sewaholic skirt, vintage wool

It reminds me a little of a skirt my mom used to have. Or the one Vera Ellen wears around the fire in White Christmas. You know the one.

wool winter skirt

I have a teeny confession to make, however. The hem is only basted. I don’t own a full length mirror, I usually reply on shop windows as I walk to the subway station. The barber is used to me adjusting my pants in front of his window, and we are both OK with that. I’m not yet sold on this skirt’s length (I added 2 inches to view A) and wanted help from these photos. So don’t look too closely.

I  completed this skirt as part of a Hollyburn sew-along. The pattern was easy to understand, but because it is wool I thought it was necessary to add a lining and it turns out I needed a little hand-holding. Thankfully Rachel at My Messings did a step-by-step guide. This was my first garment with a zipper and a lining so there is definitely room for improvement, but I’m happy with they way it turned out. Well, after it is hemmed, maybe in time for next autumn.

Pay no mind to the wrinkles.

A Practice Gift

For Christmas I made my husband a shirt. It was a gift, but also a little selfish since I really wanted to hide at home and sew for a few days.

shirt and shadowsI chose the Colette Negroni pattern because word on the Internet was it is an easy pattern to tackle, which turned out to be true. It was fun to put together. I may have squealed with delight, sitting there alone in my apartment. Or perhaps Tanaka-san heard me and shared in the fun.

It was a risky undertaking since I had never before made something with so much detail — pockets! button holes! cuffs! a collar! — and if the project fell terribly apart, I was left with no backup plan. Thankfully it worked out well, for both us.

flirty pockets

This is the practice shirt, which I made out of cheap polyester-something, and it has been worn about a dozen times without washing. I think he likes it. I keep saying he can pick out the fabric for the real shirt but he has to go to Nippori with me to do so. Maybe there is a bit of selfishness in that offer, too.